Review: From Broadway to Obscurity… (Cabaret Soiree)

ERIC_GUTMAN_FB2O-256Eric Gutman presented a personal show on the ins and outs of all things Broadway in Toronto

Eric Gutman, the creator and star of From Broadway to Obscurity, has a tremendous gift for impressions, especially musical impressions. There’s a while in the middle of his performance where he talks about his time working on Forbidden Broadway. Gutman sings a lively, story-studded medley of Gerald Allesandrini’s best-known and most pointed songs, and this 20 minutes of the performance is totally delightful. The rest of it, to be honest, I could have taken or left (and would have mostly preferred to leave).

There’s no doubt that Gutman has some excellent vocal talent, and I imagine that he was great at his Broadway job as Hank in Jersey Boys. It’s exciting to hear Broadway caliber singing at way-uptown Toronto prices (or Fringe festival prices, as his show has largely been seen). But as a cabaret, From Broadway to Obscurity lacks some key things that Torontonians, accustomed to stellar cabaret, have come to expect (the local versions also comes without the side order of cheap homophobic/transphobic jokes, which I prefer).

Gutman sings a lot, which is nice — he’s great to listen to. Some of what he sings seems to be his own composition or personalized versions of classic Broadway show tunes which — with the notable exception of Another Hundred People from Company as a number about auditions — are only ever fair. The patter is most interesting when he’s telling stories of his auditions and mishaps; parts about his marriages and partners are brief and feel forced, as does the ending. I couldn’t help but feel, toward the end, that he included the frame of “to Obscurity…” mostly because he couldn’t think of another good reason to go on the road doing a cabaret but didn’t actually have anything much to say (in public) about why he quit and moved back to Michigan. Again.

This isn’t terrible, but I wish Gutman would re-fashion it into Broadway Behind The Scenes, tell his funny and touching stories (and the ones he heard from others), sing the big numbers he’s allowed to sing, and call it good without the timeline of his love life and the weirdly aggressive, standing-on-the-couch rant against the music from Cats that comes in the first ten minutes. If Gutman plays to his strengths — and he definitely has them — this could be pretty good. As it is, I found it rather limp.

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photo of Eric Gutman provided by the artist